Monday, November 30, 2009

We’re Going (RED) for World AIDS Day

HIV/AIDS has cut a swath of destruction across the globe—infecting more than 60 million people, leaving 14 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa alone. But a global movement to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, along with scientific breakthroughs in treatment, have reversed the momentum in recent years. For those living with HIV in Africa, just two pills at 40 cents a day can bring a recovery so miraculous it’s known as the Lazarus Effect. Watch the transformation of lives in this video:



Thanks to the efforts of The Global Fund and other organizations around the globe, the number of people in low and middle-income countries receiving these medicines has increased ten-fold over 5 years. But fewer than half of those in need of treatment have access. And the number of new HIV infections continues to outstrip the numbers on treatment: for every two people starting treatment, five become infected with the virus.

Taking action has never been easier. Our World AIDS Day page offers plenty of options:
Show your support in other ways, too. On Twitter, from approx. 4 am EST (for 24 hours), include #red to turn your tweets the color red; if you like, follow @joinred. Select the iGoogle World AIDS Day theme on your personal iGoogle homepage. And on Tuesday night (December 1) starting at 8pm EST, watch a live Alicia Keys concert on YouTube benefiting Keep a Child Alive.

Update at 3:20PM: Added info about the iGoogle World AIDS Day theme, another way to show your support.

Holiday savings with Checkout

This holiday season, Google Checkout can help you save time and money. You can shop quickly and easily with one secure login for thousands of stores across the web. And through December 17, save with exclusive discounts of $5, $10 or $20 at hundreds of participating stores, including TigerDirect.com, BlueNile.com and Petco.com.

And for Cyber Monday, you can take advantage of special limited-time offers available at Toysrus.com, Babiesrus.com and Buy.com. Visit our new Checkout deals page for more details and to browse participating stores. Finally, if you're looking for gift ideas, check out the Product Search team's list of popular products. May your "shopping season" be easier than ever!

Friday, November 27, 2009

This week in search 11/27/09

This is part of a regular series of posts on search experience updates that runs on Fridays. Look for the label This week in search and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

This Thanksgiving week, and just in time for the holiday season, we give thanks to you, our users, with two new search features.

Holiday Interfaces
Last Friday, we started showing off our seasonal spirit with holiday-themed result pages. For the weeks surrounding various holidays in late November and December, results for seasonal queries will be adorned with decorative dividers. Try searching eid-ul-adha sometime in the next week, and your results will be separated from right-hand ads by a chain of crescent moons. In a few weeks, a search for [hanukkah lights] or [christmas trees] will also result in delightful holiday-themed pages. Put a cuddly knit sweater on your browser when you search!

Mobile Movie Results
For those of you who who plan to head to the movies this week, we've launched a mobile version of Google Search results for movies, making it even easier to find the latest holiday blockbuster playing in your area. From the web browser on your iPhone, Palm WebOS, or Android-powered device, simply search for [movies], and then tap on the "More movies" link. From there, you can either browse a list of movies or select the "Theaters" button to view a list of the ones near you.

With the added functionality to play trailers right on your phone, access movie ratings, find the closest theatre, and view upcoming showtimes, this new search feature is sure to make entertainment options on the go much easier. Here's a 1.25-minute video about it:



Hope you enjoy these new features. Stay tuned for more next week!

Posted by Amit Singhal, Google Fellow

The new Black (Friday)

The traditional kick-off to the holiday shopping season, Black Friday, has arrived. If you're anything like us, you'll be seeking out the newest, coolest products and best deals today as you make those special holiday purchases.

Using Insights for Search, we took a look at some of the holiday gifts that were most searched for this year: Zhu Zhu Pets, Nerf N Strike, Mindflex and the "Twilight" soundtrack were at the top of kids' wishlists, while netbooks, mini notebook computers and mp3 players will (hopefully) fill our "bigger" stockings.


But it's not just about keeping up with the latest and greatest this holiday. The Internet can be a great holiday shopping resource, making it easy not only to find information on the hottest items for this year's holiday shopping season, but also to track down the best prices for those items. You can see this as holiday shoppers are searching more than ever for deals online. Search terms like coupons, promo codes, free shipping and black friday sales have all increased recently. And, as more people turn to their mobile devices to search for deals, coupons are now also available on the go.


In recent years, we've also seen the proliferation of websites dedicated to Black Friday deals — these sites saw a 21% increase in visits during the week of Thanksgiving last year. You can find these sites easily with a search on Google for [black friday sites].

Retailers are increasingly responding to these deal-seeking shoppers. In fact, 60% of retailers report that they are increasing their promotional efforts during this holiday shopping season.* JCPenney, for example, is already promoting their 4 a.m. doorbuster sales and even offering wake-up calls from Cindy Crawford, Rascal Flatts and Kimora Lee Simmons to ensure we don't sleep through the savings. We also love their YouTube homepage ad today, and hope that it encourages some happy holiday purchases (and keeps some significant others out of the proverbial doghouse).


And in-store sales are not the only places to save this year. Many of us will opt out of crowded malls in favor of cuddling up to our laptops, and retailers are taking their sales to the web during this traditionally in-store focused weekend. In fact, 40% of retailers are increasing free shipping offers during this holiday shopping season* — so watch for those deals both in-store and online!

If you're interested in reading more about the holiday shopping season, including what shrewd retailers are doing and how you can take advantage of the same, check out the Google Retail Blog for insights from the Retail industry team.

Now after all this talk of shopping, it's time to get started!

* OTX/Google 2009 Holiday Retailer Survey, May 2009. (Q20) Which of the following advertising tactics has your company used or does your company plan to use in 2009? n=600


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Iraqi Government on YouTube

(Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog)

Governments, heads of state, and leaders from around the world are on YouTube, including the Pope, the Royal Family, and Queen Rania and presidents from the United States to France, South Korea to Estonia. Today we're especially pleased to announce that the Iraqi Government has launched a dedicated YouTube channel, at youtube.com/iraqigov. Learn more from Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki:



Earlier this year, I visited Baghdad as a guest of the U.S. State Department to engage in conversations about the role of technology in Iraq. In discussions with elected officials, private companies and NGOs, I routinely heard the desire to connect with fellow citizens, Iraqis outside the country's borders, and cultures across the world. But it wasn't just the Iraqi Government who expressed an interest in YouTube — I was pleasantly surprised by the high level of awareness from a wide variety of Iraqis. One young student told us she uses YouTube to understand what is really happening in her country based on the variety of opinions, citizen journalism and news reports uploaded to the site. There was little difference between her examples and those we often hear in other countries, which speaks to both the global community on YouTube and the universality of the video experience.

Just this past week, our CEO Eric Schmidt traveled to Iraq to meet with government officials there about the challenge and opportunities they face. While in Iraq, Eric shot this video for Citizentube:



We hope that by launching on YouTube, the Iraqi Government and their citizens will also find it easy to use YouTube to engage in such conversations, and bring their proceedings, policies and ideas to a larger audience around the world.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New search ad formats

At Google, we're committed to giving you the information you want — regardless of the form in which it might appear.

Text is often useful, but sometimes videos and pictures are a more effective way to receive information. For example, if you want to learn a magic trick, a video showing you how to perform the trick is likely the best result. So over the past few years, we've blended videos, images, maps and more into the search results on Google.com.

It also makes sense to provide you with richer types of information in the ads. If you're looking to buy your mom a new handbag for the holidays, for instance, you might want to see pictures, prices, the addresses of boutiques in your area and a map of how to get there — all within the ad.

To provide a better search ads experience, we've been developing and testing a variety of new ad formats. These formats are focused on giving you the information you need, while retaining what you love about Google advertising: that the ads are relevant and useful.

If you’re in the U.S. you may have already seen a number of these ad formats when searching on Google.

Some of them include visual elements. For example, if you’re curious about the movies that are playing this holiday season, you might see an ad with a video that lets you watch a trailer.


You might also see an ad with more links so you can quickly find a specific page in an advertiser’s website. If you're researching airfare to visit your relatives for the holidays, it saves time to go directly to Priceline's page about booking flights, rather than the general homepage or rental car page.


Or, if you’re trying to find a holiday bouquet to bring to your dinner party hostess, you might see an ad that shows your local florist's location on a map and provides driving directions.


Other new ad formats might help you find all the addresses and locations of a chain store in your area. So if you're vacationing abroad this season and have a craving for something familiar, the ad might show you all the nearby Pizza Huts that can deliver to your hotel.


And starting today, you might spot ads that include images and prices for specific products. When shopping for the ski outfit your nephew has been hinting about all year, you might see pictures from the retailer’s inventory to help you quickly determine if they have the color and style you had in mind.


Still other ad formats may introduce new ways of presenting information, such as Comparison Ads, which allow you to specify exactly what you're looking for and to compare rates and prices in a single location. With the approaching new year comes resolutions to get things in order, so you might want an ad that lets you see side-by-side refinancing offers.


While we experiment with new formats, we'll remain loyal to our core principle: that getting the right ad to the right person at the right time matters. As we continue to think up innovative ways to give you the information you want, you’re likely to see even more ad formats until we pinpoint the most useful, relevant and engaging ones. We’ll keep trying new things until we discover the “perfect” ads that improve your overall search experience.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Easy holiday shopping with Google Product Search

This holiday season, whether you're shopping for a new sweater for Fido, a Lego set for young builders, or that fancy camera you've been eyeing all year, Google Product Search can help you find what you're looking for at a great price. You can compare products and prices from merchants across the web, from popular retailers like Amazon and Best Buy to places to buy unique gifts like eBay and Etsy.

Check out some of the recent improvements we've made to Google Product Search:
  • Our new gallery view shows larger, higher-resolution images to help pick the style or model that is right for you. Check out some [digital cameras] or [sweater boots].
  • Check the Reviews section of our product pages before you buy — we're now including review summaries to help you see what people are saying at a glance. 
  • We've recently integrated video product reviews from YouTube, which appear right on the product pages so you can get an in-depth look at items before you buy. 
  • If you want to see or purchase an item in person, click nearby stores to see a map of nearby store locations for that seller. 
  • Product Search works great on mobile phones, so you can compare prices, read reviews and even find coupons from the Local Business Center while you're shopping. You can also use the nifty barcode scanner on your phone to compare prices quickly and easily.

We hope these new features help you find the perfect gifts for your friends and family (and maybe even something nice for yourself) this holiday season.

Happy shopping!

Displaying the best display ad with Teracent




Can you spot the difference between these two sample display ads? Of course you can. However, the most important difference is not discernible to the naked eye.

The lower ad was customized and chosen from thousands of different creative elements, automatically and in real-time, by machine-learning algorithms developed by Teracent, a San Mateo, California startup.

We think that this technology has great potential to improve display advertising on the web. That's why we're pleased to announce today that we've entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Teracent. The transaction, which is subject to various closing conditions, is expected to close this quarter.

As you know, we've been busy releasing new features and products to help improve display advertising on the web for everyone. We believe that Teracent's technology fits neatly into these efforts.

Teracent's technology can pick and choose from literally thousands of creative elements of a display ad in real-time — tweaking images, products, messages or colors. These elements can be optimized depending on factors like geographic location, language, the content of the website, the time of day or the past performance of different ads.

This technology can help advertisers get better results from their display ad campaigns. In turn, this enables publishers to make more money from their ad space and delivers web users better ads and more ad-funded web content.

We're looking forward to welcoming the Teracent team to Google and to making this technology available to our display advertising clients — including those who run display ad campaigns on the Google Content Network and our DoubleClick clients.

Update on 12/11/2009: The deal has closed, and Teracent is officially part of Google. 

Friday, November 20, 2009

This week in search 11/20/09

This is part of a regular series of posts on search experience updates that runs on Fridays. Look for the label This week in search and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

This week brought a number of new features to the fore.

Google Translate
The biggest and most visible release this week was our update to Google Translate. New changes to the interface help you translate instantly and see translations as you type. We have also introduced both input and output transliteration: for selected languages, our tool will show you letter by letter how a word or phrase appears in a different language as you type. We have also added text-to-speech, so you can figure out how to pronounce new words as you learn them.

Rich Snippets in Japanese
On the topic of international launches, at our Searchology event in May we announced the launch of Rich Snippets, which webmasters can use to help Google show more useful information from the page. For example, if you are thinking of trying out a new restaurant and are searching for reviews, Rich Snippets could include things like the average review score, the number of reviews, and the restaurant's price range. Starting this week, this feature is available in Japanese.

Flu shot finder now on results pages
Following in the footsteps of last week's launch, we have now added our flu shot finder to the search results page.

Example searches: flu shot, h1n1 shot, flu vaccine

Site hierarchies in search results
Google usually shows a green web address, or URL, at the bottom of each search result to let you know where you're headed. Tuesday we began rolling out an improvement that replaces the URL in some search results with a hierarchy showing the precise location of the page on the website. The new display offers valuable context and new navigation options. For example, on the eHow.com result below, you can see that this page is in the Martial Art Techniques section.

Example searches: venn diagram, how to punch harder, hodgkins lymphoma, keurig

Hope you enjoyed this week's new features. Stay tuned for more!

Google Apps highlights – 11/20/2009

This is part of a regular series of Google Apps updates that we post every couple of weeks. Look for the label "Google Apps highlights" and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

Over the last two weeks, we've made improvements across Google Apps, some geared for individuals, others meant for business customers.

Green Robot icon in Gmail Labs
The green, orange and red chat bubbles in Gmail signal if your contacts are online, idle or unavailable, but as more people sign in from mobile devices, it's becoming harder to tell when someone is actually online at a computer or just connected with their phone. The Green Robot feature in Gmail Labs helps you spot when you might want to tailor your exchanges with more succinct messages for people who are signed in with Android-powered devices. Look for the green beaker icon at the top of Gmail to enable Green Robot and other Labs features.


Site templates
On Tuesday we launched templates for Google Sites. The templates gallery is filled with useful example sites ranging from wedding websites to corporate intranets, which you can copy and customize so they're just right. This lets you create a useful, visually appealing collaborative workspace in seconds. And if you have a great site other people would find useful, you can submit it to the gallery. If your business uses Google Sites, templates you submit stay private within your company.


More overflow storage for less
If you're using Google Apps to store photos with Picasa Web Albums and manage large volumes of personal email, you'll be happy to hear we're now offering more extra storage for less. Our new overflow storage plans start at $5 per year for 20 GB. For the most avid shutterbugs, the 16 TB plan is enough space for roughly 8 million high resolution pictures!


Improvements to Sync for Outlook
Last week, we released an update to Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, our tool that lets companies stop running Microsoft Exchange while still letting some employees use the familiar Outlook interface. Now, employees can sync multiple calendars between Outlook and Google Apps, and look up free/busy information from Exchange for co-workers who haven't migrated to Google Apps yet.

Google Apps Premier Edition innovation – Year in review
Businesses using Google Apps not only save money compared to running their own email systems, but also their employees get access to innovation at a much faster pace than with conventional business technologies. We've launched over 100 improvements to Google Apps in the last year, and on Thursday I hosted a webcast to recap noteworthy recent updates for businesses, including push email, contacts and calendar support for BlackBerry, iPhone, Windows Mobile and Android, Sync for Microsoft Outlook, offline access and more. If you missed the webcast, you can watch it on YouTube.

Who's gone Google?
This week I'm pleased to welcome a new crop of companies, schools and public agencies that have recently switched to Google Apps, including Delta Hotels, Michigan State University, the City of Orlando and the Office of the New Mexico Attorney General. The Motorola Mobile Devices Division deployed Google Apps to its employees this week, and the Los Angeles City Council recently voted unanimously to move 30,000 city employees to Google Apps.

We hope these updates help you get even more from Google Apps. For details and the latest news in this area, check out the Google Apps Blog.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cool. Even Batman uses Google.

When I first started at Google, Craig Nevill-Manning, engineering director here in New York, said to me: "The Google homepage doesn't belong to us. It belongs to the millions of people who use it." Besides the fact that Craig can make one of those insanely cool leaf patterns in his latte, I find the simple truth of his statement inspiring. I often refer to it as a guidepost for our work.

So when we got together with the search team to brainstorm ways to talk about our latest innovations (like music in search results), we decided to feature them through stories inspired by our users. Because while we're proud of the innovations we're making in search, we're proudest of the things people use search to accomplish. In other words, the best search results don't show up on a webpage — they show up in somebody's life.

So in that spirit, we made a bunch of videos. There's one about grandma dipping her toe into technology. One about friends taking a Kerouac inspired road trip. And yes, there's even one about Bruce Wayne.

Here's the first one:



You can see them all here.

As they say in the movies, all the characters in these videos are fictional, any resemblance to persons alive or dead are purely coincidental.

We hope you enjoy them.

Releasing the Chromium OS open source project

In July we announced that we were working on Google Chrome OS, an open source operating system for people who spend most of their time on the web.

Today we are open-sourcing the project as Chromium OS. We are doing this early, a year before Google Chrome OS will be ready for users, because we are eager to engage with partners, the open source community and developers. As with the Google Chrome browser, development will be done in the open from this point on. This means the code is free, accessible to anyone and open for contributions. The Chromium OS project includes our current code base, user interface experiments and some initial designs for ongoing development. This is the initial sketch and we will color it in over the course of the next year.

We want to take this opportunity to explain why we're excited about the project and how it is a fundamentally different model of computing.

First, it's all about the web. All apps are web apps. The entire experience takes place within the browser and there are no conventional desktop applications. This means users do not have to deal with installing, managing and updating programs.

Second, because all apps live within the browser, there are significant benefits to security. Unlike traditional operating systems, Chrome OS doesn't trust the applications you run. Each app is contained within a security sandbox making it harder for malware and viruses to infect your computer. Furthermore, Chrome OS barely trusts itself. Every time you restart your computer the operating system verifies the integrity of its code. If your system has been compromised, it is designed to fix itself with a reboot. While no computer can be made completely secure, we're going to make life much harder (and less profitable) for the bad guys. If you dig security, read the Chrome OS Security Overview or watch the video.

Most of all, we are obsessed with speed. We are taking out every unnecessary process, optimizing many operations and running everything possible in parallel. This means you can go from turning on the computer to surfing the web in a few seconds. Our obsession with speed goes all the way down to the metal. We are specifying reference hardware components to create the fastest experience for Google Chrome OS.

There is still a lot of work to do, and we're excited to work with the open source community. We have benefited hugely from projects like GNU, the Linux Kernel, Moblin, Ubuntu, WebKit and many more. We will be contributing our code upstream and engaging closely with these and other open source efforts.

Google Chrome OS will be ready for consumers this time next year. Sign up here for updates or if you like building your operating system from source, get involved at chromium.org.

Lastly, here is a short video that explains why we're so excited about Google Chrome OS.



Update at 8:55PM: Watch the video of our Google Chrome OS event, which took place earlier today.


Automatic captions in YouTube

Since we first announced captions in Google Video and YouTube, we've introduced multiple caption tracks, improved search functionality and even automatic translation. Each of these features has had great personal significance to me, not only because I helped to design them, but also because I'm deaf. Today, I'm in Washington, D.C. to announce what I consider the most important and exciting milestone yet: machine-generated automatic captions.

Since the original launch of captions in our products, we’ve been happy to see growth in the number of captioned videos on our services, which now number in the hundreds of thousands. This suggests that more and more people are becoming aware of how useful captions can be. As we’ve explained in the past, captions not only help the deaf and hearing impaired, but with machine translation, they also enable people around the world to access video content in any of 51 languages. Captions can also improve search and even enable users to jump to the exact parts of the videos they're looking for.

However, like everything YouTube does, captions face a tremendous challenge of scale. Every minute, 20 hours of video are uploaded. How can we expect every video owner to spend the time and effort necessary to add captions to their videos? Even with all of the captioning support already available on YouTube, the majority of user-generated video content online is still inaccessible to people like me.

To help address this challenge, we've combined Google's automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology with the YouTube caption system to offer automatic captions, or auto-caps for short. Auto-caps use the same voice recognition algorithms in Google Voice to automatically generate captions for video. The captions will not always be perfect (check out the video below for an amusing example), but even when they're off, they can still be helpful—and the technology will continue to improve with time.

In addition to automatic captions, we’re also launching automatic caption timing, or auto-timing, to make it significantly easier to create captions manually. With auto-timing, you no longer need to have special expertise to create your own captions in YouTube. All you need to do is create a simple text file with all the words in the video and we’ll use Google’s ASR technology to figure out when the words are spoken and create captions for your video. This should significantly lower the barriers for video owners who want to add captions, but who don’t have the time or resources to create professional caption tracks.

To learn more about how to use auto-caps and auto-timing, check out this short video and our help center article:



You should see both features available in English by the end of the week. For our initial launch, auto-caps are only visible on a handful of partner channels (list below*). Because auto-caps are not perfect, we want to make sure we get feedback from both viewers and video owners before we roll them out more broadly. Auto-timing, on the other hand, is rolling out globally for all English-language videos on YouTube. We hope to expand these features for other channels and languages in the future. Please send us your feedback to help make that happen.

Today I'm more hopeful than ever that we'll achieve our long-term goal of making videos universally accessible. Even with its flaws, I see the addition of automatic captioning as a huge step forward.

* Partners for the initial launch of auto-caps: UC Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Yale, UCLA, Duke, UCTV, Columbia, PBS, National Geographic, Demand Media, UNSW and most Google & YouTube channels.

Update on 11/24: We've posted a full length video of our announcement event in Washington D.C. on YouTube. We've included English captions using our new auto-timing feature.



What's cooking with iGoogle...

We're both huge foodies, and we always love spending time in the kitchen with friends and family, especially around the holidays. Particularly during this season, many of us turn to Google when searching for recipes. But, in addition to spicing up your recipe repertoire, Google can be a huge resource in the kitchen. From helping you with sugar measurements, to jump starting ideas for unique Thanksgiving table settings, the web has made becoming a culinary master much easier.

Since many of us love to celebrate great food, we're excited to announce that we've partnered with a variety of top chefs and food industry experts to bring you some elegant new, food-focused iGoogle themes and gadgets. iGoogle is all about personalization and freshness, and in that spirit, these unique themes are sure to delight the chef in all of us. Be sure to check out our iGoogle gallery, where you'll find some tasty new themes from chefs like Alton Brown and Paula Deen, food artists like Carl Warner and James Parker and even famous bakeries like New York City's Crumbs Bake Shop and Magnolia Bakery.

In addition to these taste bud tantalizing themes, we've also partnered with many top food industry names to build a suite of new gadgets for your iGoogle page. For example, Supercook lets you input various ingredients you have on hand, then gives you some great recipes you can whip up. And if you're feeling like a night out at a new restaurant, Urbanspoon will help you pick a restaurant on the fly — all from your iGoogle page.

We hope this new element of gourmet iGoogle personalization will get you even more interested in enhancing your cooking and dining experiences. Here's to some great new food with family and friends this holiday season!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Explore images with Google Image Swirl, now in Labs

Back in 2001, to give people a new, quicker way to find images, we launched Image Search. When you do a search for [eiffel tower] you'll find an array of images of the tower in the daytime, in black and white, at sunset and more. With Similar Images, which recently graduated from Google Labs, you can click "Find similar images" to narrow your search to, say, pictures of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. Today, we've launched an experimental feature in Labs called Google Image Swirl, which builds on new computer vision research to cluster similar images into representative groups in a fun, exploratory interface.

For example, if you search on Image Swirl for [washington], you'll see 12 image thumbnails including President Washington, the Washington Monument, a map of Washington D.C. and the Capitol Building:


Once you find the group of images you're interested in, you can click on the thumbnail and a cluster of images will "swirl" into view. For example, here's what you'll see if you click the image of the Washington Monument:


You can then further explore additional sub-groups within any cluster. The interface may look familiar to those of you who have tried Google's Wonder Wheel available in the Search Options panel, which enables you to explore related search queries.

Image Swirl expands on technologies developed for Similar Images and Picasa Face Recognition to discern how images should be grouped together and build hierarchies out of these groups. Each thumbnail on the initial results page represents an algorithmically-determined representative group of images with similar appearance and meaning. These aren't just the most relevant images — they are the most relevant groups of images.

Image Swirl currently works for more than 200,000 queries and we plan to include more queries in the future. Available queries will auto-complete as you start to type in the search box, similar to Google Suggest.

You can try out Google Image Swirl in Google Labs today. The feature is experimental and the underlying technology is a work in progress, so please share your feedback and let us know how we can make it more useful.

Update on 12/16: Check out our post on the Google Research Blog to learn more about the underlying technology behind Google Image Swirl.

Finding the laws that govern us

As many of us recall from our civics lessons in school, the United States is a common law country. That means when judges issue opinions in legal cases, they often establish precedents that will guide the rulings of other judges in similar cases and jurisdictions. Over time, these legal opinions build, refine and clarify the laws that govern our land. For average citizens, however, it can be difficult to find or even read these landmark opinions. We think that's a problem: Laws that you don't know about, you can't follow — or make effective arguments to change.

Starting today, we're enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using Google Scholar. You can find these opinions by searching for cases (like Planned Parenthood v. Casey), or by topics (like desegregation) or other queries that you are interested in. For example, go to Google Scholar, click on the "Legal opinions and journals" radio button, and try the query separate but equal. Your search results will include links to cases familiar to many of us in the U.S. such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, which explore the acceptablity of "separate but equal" facilities for citizens at two different points in the history of the U.S. But your results will also include opinions from cases that you might be less familiar with, but which have played an important role.

We think this addition to Google Scholar will empower the average citizen by helping everyone learn more about the laws that govern us all. To understand how an opinion has influenced other decisions, you can explore citing and related cases using the Cited by and Related articles links on search result pages. As you read an opinion, you can follow citations to the opinions to which it refers. You can also see how individual cases have been quoted or discussed in other opinions and in articles from law journals. Browse these by clicking on the "How Cited" link next to the case title. See, for example, the frequent citations for Roe v. Wade, for Miranda v. Arizona (the source of the famous Miranda warning) or for Terry v. Ohio (a case which helped to establish acceptable grounds for an investigative stop by a police officer).

As we worked to build this feature, we were struck by how readable and accessible these opinions are. Court opinions don't just describe a decision but also present the reasons that support the decision. In doing so, they explain the intricacies of law in the context of real-life situations. And they often do it in language that is surprisingly straightforward, even for those of us outside the legal profession. In many cases, judges have gone quite a bit out of their way to make complex legal issues easy to follow. For example, in Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court justices present a fascinating and easy-to-follow debate on the legality of internment of natural born citizens based on their ancestry. And in United States v. Ramirez-Lopez, Judge Kozinski, in his dissent, illustrates the key issue of the case using an imagined good-news/bad-news dialogue between the defendant and his attorney.

We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of several pioneers, who have worked on making it possible for an average citizen to educate herself about the laws of the land: Tom Bruce (Cornell LII), Jerry Dupont (LLMC), Graham Greenleaf and Andrew Mowbray (AustLII), Carl Malamud (Public.Resource.Org), Daniel Poulin (LexUM), Tim Stanley (Justia), Joe Ury (BAILII), Tim Wu (AltLaw) and many others. It is an honor to follow in their footsteps. We would also like to acknowledge the judges who have built this cathedral of justice brick by brick and have tried to make it accessible to the rest of us. We hope Google Scholar will help all of us stand on the shoulders of these giants.

Posted by Anurag Acharya, Distinguished Engineer

New site hierarchies display in search results

Google usually shows a green web address, or URL, at the bottom of each search result to let you know where you're headed. Today we're rolling out an improvement that replaces the URL in some search results with a hierarchy showing the precise location of the page on the website. The new display provides valuable context and new navigation options. The changes are rolling out now and should be available globally in the next few days.

Some web addresses help you understand the structure of the site and how the specific page fits into the site hierarchy. For example, consider a search for the biography of Vint Cerf (Google's Internet Evangelist). The URL for one result, "www.google.com/corporate/execs.html," shows that the page is located in a page about "execs," under "corporate," which is on the "google.com" site. This can provide valuable context when deciding whether to click on the result.

Often, however, URLs are too long, too short, or too obscure to add useful information. For example, consider this result from ProductWiki for the query [spidersapien reviews]:


The URL of this result is "www.productwiki.com/spidersapien," which doesn't provide much additional information about the site or this result. Now take a look at the result with the new site hierarchy display:


The new text provides useful information about the page. You can tell that the ProductWiki site has information about many different products, organized in different categories, and you can even tell that Spidersapien is a robot toy. In addition, each phrase in the green line is actually a link. For example, clicking on "Toys & Games" takes you to ProductWiki's listing page for all toys, and clicking on "Robots" takes you to a list of their robot toys. This way if you realize that you're interested in a more general category than this specific product (there are a lot of cool robot toys out there) you can easily access information on broader topics.

The host and domain for the site (in this case www.productwiki.com) will always be shown, so you always know what website you're going to before you click. There's not always enough room to show the complete hierarchy, so sometimes we use ellipses to replace some of the intermediate levels, like in this result for [how to make granola]:


The information in these new hierarchies come from analyzing destination web pages. For example, if you visit the ProductWiki Spidersapien page, you'll see a series of similar links at the top, "Home> Toys & Games> Robots." These are standard navigational tools used throughout the web called "breadcrumbs," which webmasters frequently show on their sites to help users navigate. By analyzing site breadcrumbs, we've been able to improve the search snippet for a small percentage of search results, and we hope to expand in the future.

When we design the way results appear on google.com, our goal is to get you to the information you're looking for as quickly as possible. Sometimes that means improving how we represent websites, and other times that means giving you new ways to explore content. We're always happy when we can introduce a feature, like site hierarchies, that does both!

Connecting citizens and journalists with YouTube Direct

(Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog)

Every day, people with video cameras are changing the ways we get our news. We see it during elections. We see it during earthquakes, fires and other natural disasters. We see it on our freeways, in our schools and in our public spaces. Almost any event that takes place today has a chance of being captured on camera. As YouTube has become a global platform for sharing the news, media organizations have been looking for a good way to connect directly with citizen reporters on our site so they can broadcast this footage and bring it to a larger audience.

That's why we created YouTube Direct, a new tool that allows media organizations to request, review and rebroadcast YouTube clips directly from YouTube users. Built from our APIs, this open source application lets media organizations enable customized versions of YouTube's upload platform on their own websites. Users can upload videos directly into this application, which also enables the hosting organization to easily review video submissions and select the best ones to broadcast on-air and on their websites. As always, these videos also live on YouTube, so users can reach their own audience while also getting broader exposure and editorial validation for the videos they create.




Though we built YouTube Direct to help news organizations expand their coverage and connect directly with their audiences, the application is designed to meet any organization's goal of leveraging video content submitted by the community. Businesses can use YouTube Direct to solicit promotional videos, nonprofits can use the application to call out for support videos around social campaigns and politicians can use the platform to ask for user-generated political commercials. The opportunities to use the tool are as broad as the media spectrum itself.

Already, we've seen ABC News, the Huffington Post, NPR, Politico, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post and WHDH-TV/WLVI-TV in Boston using YouTube Direct. We look forward to seeing many more organizations to do the same.

To get started, visit youtube.com/direct.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Templates now available in Google Sites

I'm pleased to announce we just added a stocked gallery of site templates in Google Sites. Anyone can browse the public template gallery, and businesses using Google Apps each have a private area where employees can share site templates with coworkers.

The rate that businesses are adopting Google Sites has surpassed our expectations, and templates will make Sites even more useful by dramatically reducing the time it takes to set up collaborative workspaces like employee intranets, project tracking sites, team sites and employee profile pages. Templates let you quickly start a new site with pre-built content, embedded gadgets, page layouts, navigation links, theming and more.


You can find more about what's new and read stories from customers about why they switched to Google Sites from on-premises collaboration solutions on the Google Enterprise Blog.

And because many of you are managing personal projects with Google Sites, we also added templates for family sites, weddings, neighborhood associations, clubs, charitable causes and more to the public gallery. Check out the Google Docs Blog for other examples and details, and if you have a personal site that others could use as a template, please submit your work to the public gallery!


And the Google Code Jam 2009 champion is...

Last week, we hosted the the final round of Google Code Jam 2009, the sixth iteration of our annual global programming competition. From almost 23,000 registrants in the beginning, we winnowed down the contestants to the fastest and most fervent coders. On Friday, we brought the top 23 competitors to our Mountain View headquarters for four concentrated hours of thinking, testing and trouble-shooting. The competition platform, built as a 20% project by a group of Google engineers, was powered by Google App Engine and allowed the contestants to use the programming language of their choice. These diverse finalists represented 15 different countries across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

The contestants were confronted by six puzzles. In one, they had to take on the role of a telecommunications company upgrading some of its equipment. The company wants to upgrade its most profitable cell towers; however, doing so might force them to upgrade less profitable towers as well — at a high cost. The contestants were charged with figuring out which towers to upgrade, to maximize gains and minimize costs. The competitors used their coding skills to figure out the most efficient solution as quickly as possible.

Last year's champion, Lou Tiancheng of China, code-named ACRush, once again took top honors and the $5,000 grand prize. Qi Zichao of China won second place, and Iwata Yoichi of Japan came in third.

For a glimpse into this year's Code Jam take look at the video below, courtesy of NBC. And to all the coders out there, we hope to see you next year — start practicing now!



A new look for Google Translate

Today, we've launched three new features as well as a new look and feel for Google Translate — a service that helps people access information throughout the world by enabling them to automatically translate text and and web pages into their own language. Google Translate offers 51 languages, representing over 98% of Internet users today.

Along with our shiny new layout, these new features should make it faster and easier for you to translate text between our 2550 language pairs:
  • Translate instantly: Say goodbye to the old "Translate" button. Google Translate now translates your text right as you type.
  • Read and write any language: Want to say "Today is a good day" in Chinese, but can't read Han characters? Click "Show romanization" to read the text written phonetically in English. Right now, this works for all non-Roman languages except for Hebrew, Arabic and Persian.

We also have a new input transliteration feature for Arabic, Persian or Hindi. If you want to translate from one of these languages, but can't type the script on your keyboard, our input transliteration feature will allow you to type words as they sound and convert them to native script.

--->

  • Text-to-speech: When translating into English, you can now also hear translations in spoken form by clicking the Speaker Icon.

Watch Josh, an engineer on our team, give a quick demo of the new Google Translate:




We hope these improvements will make reading, learning and communicating in foreign languages easier and more fun. As we continue to improve the precision of our automatic translation system, we're also always looking for ways to evolve and improve our interface. Let us know if you have any feedback on these changes in our discussion group.

Friday, November 13, 2009

This week in search 11/13/09

This is part of a regular series of posts on search experience updates that runs on Fridays. Look for the label "This week in search" and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

 This week brought a variety of changes, including a flu shot finder to keep you healthy during this year's flu season. And since you'll be healthy, you can enjoy updates to our movie showtimes feature and go out and have fun.

Flu shot finder
We launched a flu shot finder with the goal of helping people find where they can get their fall flu shots. At the moment we have data for shot locations in 20 states. We'll be increasing our coverage to all 50 states. We're just getting started with this project, so stay tuned for improvements.

You can find flu shots at www.google.com/flushot.

The ability to lock SafeSearch
We launched a feature that lets you lock your SafeSearch setting. When you lock SafeSearch, two things will change. First, you'll need to enter your password to change the setting. Second, the Google search results page will be visibly different to indicate that SafeSearch is on and locked:

That way, if you're taking care of kids, you'll be able to verify that SafeSearch is on from clear across the room! Just look for the colorful balls in the upper right corner.

You can lock your SafeSearch by visiting our Search Settings page in the Settings menu in the upper right corner of www.google.com and clicking "Lock SafeSearch".

Updated movies showtimes
We launched an update to the movies showtimes feature, which now includes movie posters to enrich our movie results. When you click on the result, you'll get a more comprehensive summary of the movie as well as the ability to view theater locations on a map and sort by genre.

Example searches: movies, where the wild things are, 2012

Adding World Bank data to search
We have added World Bank data to search. This makes finding global facts like life expectancy, electricity use and birth rates a lot faster and easier. The Public Data feature also lets you make comparisons across countries. Here's what the feature looks like when it appears in your search results:
Example searches: the worlds life expectancy, electricity use germany

Hope you enjoyed this week's new features. Stay tuned for next week!

Introducing the Europe Scholarship for Students with Disabilities

(Cross-posted with the Google Students Blog)

Today, we're excited to announce the most recent addition to our scholarship programs in Europe, the Google Europe Scholarship for Students with Disabilities. This scholarship is designed for students with disabilities who are pursuing university degrees in the field of computer science at a university anywhere in the European Union, plus Switzerland and Israel. Multiple scholarships will be awarded based on the strength of candidates’ academic performance and demonstrated passion for computer science.

Scholarships will be granted for the 2010/2011 academic year, and recipients will be invited to attend an all-expenses-paid retreat at Google’s Engineering Center in Zurich in 2010.

Here's what Nelson Mattos, our VP for Product & Engineering in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has to say about this scholarship: "We're committed to diversifying the long-term engineering talent pool for the industry as a whole. We hope that this scholarship will increase opportunities for students with disabilities and encourage them to pursue careers in computer science. The retreat fosters relationships so that scholars can form a supportive network lasting the full length of their academic studies and beyond."

We know that a diverse group of people use our tools and services and only an equally diverse workforce can anticipate our users' needs. We've found that the diversity of perspectives, ideas and cultures leads to the creation of better products to the benefit of all users of the Internet. We hope that this scholarship works towards that end.

The deadline to apply is March 15th 2010. For more details, visit www.google.com/studentswithdisabilities-europe.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Google Sidewiki: The first 50 days of valuable entries and new API features

It's been just under 2 months since we launched Google Sidewiki and we've already seen a great number of valuable entries that have been written worldwide.

From product tips to online petitions and from expert health advice to programming help, Sidewiki users are finding many useful and creative ways to help others. We've been really excited by these uses of Sidewiki and wanted to share 10 of these great entries with you:

If you haven't used Sidewiki yet, you can download it at google.com/sidewiki as part of the Google Toolbar for Firefox and Internet Explorer. If you're using Google Chrome, Safari or other browsers without the Google Toolbar, simply install the Sidewiki bookmarklet.

We're also releasing a top-requested feature for our API today that makes it easy to retrieve all Sidewiki entries for an entire domain. With this addition, you can look for new entries created on any page of a website and also subscribe to them via RSS (such as this RSS feed for all Sidewiki entries on the Google Blog). See our Sidewiki API documentation for all of its details.

We look forward to seeing many more great entries and keeping you posted with new features — follow us on Twitter for the latest news and highlights. Try using Sidewiki right now to add your feedback to this blog post and read what others are saying!